Peter Frates (pictured in grey) stands surrounded by friends and family at 5K4Life’s finish
line on Sunday, Nov. 4.

By Christina Janansky
BU News Service
CAMBRIDGE — Of the 556 registered runners who crossed 5K4Life’s finish line on Sunday, Nov. 4 in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, nearly a fifth of them sported red shirts with the name “Frates” boldly printed on the back.“Frates” referred to Peter Frates, a 27-year-old Beverly, Mass. native who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in March of this year. However, ALS didn’t stop the former Boston College baseball captain from crossing the race’s finish line in a wheelchair pushed by frie
“Having my friends and family here is a testament of how caring and supportive they all are,” Frates said in a slurred speech commonly known as the “ALS accent.”nds and family.

“There are a lot of 5K’s in Boston every day, but for me personally it’s having all my friends and family here that makes it incredible. It makes it much more special,” he said.

The fourth annual 5K4Life Road Race raised $71,000 for Prize4Life, a non-profit organization that uses large monetary prizes to drive innovative research of ALS, a neurological condition that attacks motor neurons in the brain and nervous system.

According to the ALS Association, over 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS—more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—each year. There is no known cure for ALS and those diagnosed with the disease rarely live for more than five years after being diagnosed.

Many recognizable figures in history have suffered from the disease, such as famed baseball player, Lou Gehrig, for whom the disease was named, physicist Stephen Hawking, and football player, Don Revie.

Long-time friends of the Frates family, Dean Darr and wife, Lucia Darr, said Frates has already participated in several ALS 5K’s and fundraisers and that, according to them, he is always the “most represented” ALS victim at such events. The couple said their own participation in these events, including the 5K4Life, has put life in a new perspective.

“It makes you stop and think about how lucky you are,” said Lucia Darr, 51. However, she said she is hopeful that a cure for ALS lies somewhere in the near future for Frates and other ALS victims.

Medals given to participants at the finish line of 5K4Life’s race

“He’s going to fight,” she said. “After all, someone has to be the first person to be cured, right?”

Fundraisers like this, according to Dean Darr, 49, are the best way to discover that cure and promote knowledge of ALS.

“It’s a great thing to do and brings a lot of awareness,” said Dean Darr. “We’re hoping to find a cure or at least find ways to slow it down or reverse it.”

Frates said he will continue to live his life as normally as possible and raise awareness and funds for ALS research.

“ALS needs way more attention and it needs more funds,” Frates said. He believes the first step in finding a cure is spreading the word about ALS.

“If you don’t already know what it is,” Frates said, “go to Google, type in those three letters and find out.”

 

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Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson is an Associate Professor of the Practice, Online Journalism, Boston University.
Michelle Johnson

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